NU introduces new Web platform for distance education

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All of the University of Nebraska's online education programs can now be accessed in a single location.

Through the new Web platform Online Worldwide (, NU offers more than 80 accredited programs, including bachelor's and advanced degrees as well as certificates and endorsements. The programs include more than 1,000 courses in a wide range of fields, including agriculture, biology, business, computer science, education, engineering, journalism and public administration.

Online Worldwide allows all of NU's distance programs to join forces under one virtual roof. NU President James B. Milliken said the Online Worldwide will better serve Nebraskans looking to further their education and will allow the university to capture a larger share of the rapidly growing national and international market for online learning.

"Online Worldwide offers a tremendous opportunity to students who want a high-quality, affordable education from a reputable institution such as the University of Nebraska," Milliken said. "Our distance education courses are taught by the same award-winning faculty who teach in classrooms on our campuses - ensuring that students in Nebraska and around the world have access to challenging, relevant curricula developed by experts in their fields."

Milliken noted that a recent study by the Sloan Consortium found that one in four college students took at least one course online in fall 2008 - a 17 percent increase over the previous year. Students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska at Kearney generated more than 62,000 credit hours online in 2008-2009, up from 48,000 in 2007-2008 - a 29 percent increase.

But there is a broader market to be tapped that extends beyond campus borders, Milliken said.

"More than 255,000 Nebraskans have completed some college but have not earned a degree," he said. "Distance learning is a great solution for those Nebraskans. It gives them a chance to become more competitive in today's job market, increase their earning power and improve their quality of life - all while continuing to balance work, family and other obligations.

"Furthermore, all of Nebraska benefits when we increase the educational attainment of our citizens."

Demand for online learning also is growing worldwide because of the convenience of Web-based programs and the increased importance of postsecondary education in today's knowledge-driven workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a person with a bachelor's degree will earn $1 million more over a lifetime than a person with only a high school diploma. Also, a December 2009 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that jobs that require postsecondary education will account for nearly half of all new jobs from 2008 to 2018 and one-third of total job openings in that time period.

President Obama has set a goal for America to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. This aligns with state goals to increase Nebraska's college-going rate and provide affordable access to higher education to more Nebraskans, Milliken said.

Online Worldwide is the result of several years of study and collaboration by a universitywide Distance Education Coordinating Committee and the Educational Marketing Group, located in Denver. EMG produced a report, shared with the Board of Regents in January 2009, that said the university had a major opportunity to grow its distance learning enterprise. Among the recommendations of EMG and the coordinating committee was that NU market all its distance programs under a single University of Nebraska brand.

Online Worldwide will evolve to meet workforce needs, adding new programs as necessary, said Arnold Bateman, director of the program.

"The University of Nebraska is committed to growing a talented, competitive workforce in Nebraska, and expanding our distance education offerings is one way we can do this," Bateman said.

An aggressive marketing campaign for Online Worldwide also is under way, with plans to spread awareness in local, regional, national and international markets.

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- By Melissa Lee, NU Central Administration